(first posted 7/2/2013) The most evasive of all of the B-O-P luxury compacts has finally revealed itself to me. I’ve had pretty good luck spotting the Buick and Pontiac cousins, but this is the Cutlass holy grail. It seems more fantasy than reality that I’ve finally encountered one of these mythical beings. A bit more on my own personal Summer of Love, but first, a little bit of a backstory.
It wasn’t the intention, but the Buick and Oldsmobile versions of the Y Body Luxury Compacts ended up not as radical as the engineering department had wished for. While the Aluminum V8 was pretty revolutionary, Oldsmobile engineers had envisioned a front wheel drive, medium displacement V6 version. However, timelines, budgets and successfully engineering a radical change for a mass market product put quite a few of the items Oldsmobile engineers wanted on the back burner.
The resulting product shown to the public at the end of 1960 was more refreshing than revolutionary. Just about all of the Oldsmobile virtues (and a few niggling vices) showed up instead of a car 25 years ahead of its time. Chances are if a Front Wheel Drive V6 Oldsmobile F-85 Did show up for 1961, it wouldn’t have been received with the praise of the buying public the Ford Taurus received.
What you did get was a pretty pleasant pint sized Dynamic Eighty Eight. The same quality assembly, not that much less room, the same soft ride. The same marshmallowy handling, and a pint sized version of the befuddled Roto-Hydramatic came in the deal, with glacial shifts between 2nd and 3rd that made a comparable Buick Special with Dual Path Turbine Drive marginally quicker in the dash to 60. However, highway economy in the 20 mpg range was something the Big Oldsmobiles wouldn’t see until the late Seventies.
Like the trend setting Corvair, the coupes came online a few months after the sedans and wagons. As in the Corvair’s case, that meant a bucket seat, console and more powerful halo coupe came along with the deal. The 185 horsepower version of the 215 cubic inch aluminum V8 was pretty heady stuff in the compact market. Falcons and Comets offered at most a dottering 101 horsepower, and Mopar worked offered Hyper-Pak solutions not well suited to everyday living. The only real V8 competition came from the aging Studebaker Lark, or the quarter size larger and dowdier Rambler Classic. The only true competition was the exquisitely trimmed Skylark at Buick, really.
The one reason I can think of these Cutlasses getting lost in the shadows of time is because they really had to fight for attention. There was a fair amount of sibling rivalry to contend with. For enthusiasts at Oldsmobile alone there was the new Jetfire Coupe, and a new F-85/Cutlass Convertible. Nevermind that the concept was repeated 4 times over at other GM divisions in Corvair, Nova, LeMans and Skylark flavors.
While it didn’t spend a lot of time in the spotlight creating a parade float reputation, enough buyers were enamored with the Cutlass experience to cultivate a following of Oldsmobile customers that would come into full blossom as the decade turned. While some 1960s nameplates shined brightly in the beginning, the Cutlass badge slowly crafted a niche in the market place where those in the know wanted to be seen.
In the cover of automotive marketing night, The Cutlass slowly cast itself as a pint sized version of Oldsmobile’s own Starfire. I believe that’s the part of the Cutlass lure: It did have a big brother car to aspire to. The Skylark preceded the Wildcat. The relationship between the LeMans and the Grand Prix is muddled, since the GP was “Ventura” before the name/sex change. The Monza was an anomaly all its own, possibly inspiring the Impala to remember its original mission and to put on the “SS” jewelry.
The Cutlass learned pretty quickly to give the people exactly the exclusivity they want. In a more manageable, affordable package, that is. Sure you did forgo a lot of horsepower, power EVERYTHING and genuine leather. For the savings you got a very nice approximation of that experience with quality materials, with less of an initial blow to your pocket book. Plus, you could bank on continuing savings at the gas pump. The Starfire, in original form at least, burned out at the end of 1966. Was it a Cutlass that stabbed it in the back?
Oldsmobile murder mysteries aside, I’ve become a bit obsessed with this rather original mystery of a 1962 Cutlass. I ran across it on the way to a concert about 3 weeks ago. It’s a local car, as the front license plate frame notes, it was sold new at Fidelity Oldsmobile on Shattuck Avenue. Fidelity Oldsmobile is now Jim Doten Honda, by the way.
It’s been at Motor City Automotive on Shattuck for a solid month now, shuffling from space to space in the lot with no rhyme or reason. I’ve never actually seen the shop open (I never think to come and visit on week days off), so in furtive visits day and night I piece together little mysteries about how this time capsule is taunting me.
What could be wrong? Why aren’t you on the road? There is an obvious answer to that (JPCavanaugh’s mother’s experiences with her 1961 F-85 wagon might be true here), but it’s rare that a car has made it 51 years in this condition not to be readily fixed and put back on the road. Given my Oldsmobile lust, I can only hope a “For Sale” sign appears for an amount feasible for me to make a decision based on lust I’ll never regret.
Amazing find, Laurence. I really do love the styling of the 1961-62 F-85s. They are highly sculpted and have a sharpness or crispness to the design that I find missing in the other BOP compacts. This one has some oversized wheels that (to me, at least) detract from the look a bit. This car is quite attractive in Cutlass coupe form.
The red interior shot brings back some very fuzzy memories, as that was the interior color of our 61 wagon. My mother still remembers the car fondly, despite its fairly regular overheating problem.
I can say that I personally lived the Cutlass life cycle. We were in on the ground floor with the 61 wagon, then the 64, then a 72 Cutlass Supreme, then my stepmom’s 74 Cutlass Supreme which was sort of the Cutlass in full flower. She followed it with a Cutlass Cierra in the early 80s, as well. Hard to get more Cutlassy than this. I will be at the mall for autographs between 2 and 4.
Final note – just what the hell was that logo? I spent my early life looking at that insignia. Two boomerangs that form a T? Except it was not a Toldsmobile or a Tutlass. A spike? Shims? I have no idea what this is supposed to convey. Maybe Craig can help us on this. I don’t think that logo survived the mid 60s, but it was everywhere on our 64, so Olds must have been pretty proud of it.
They do look like ’15’s. I think the Tempest used larger wheels, but I know the Olds and Buick versions used 13’s. Assuming the bolt patterns are the same, I think you could retrofit the Tempest wheels to the other two.
I’m not sure if this reach anyone as per the date but I’m looking for someone with transmission info for the 62 cutlass
Since last July I have sold 4 running and driving 1962 F-85’s. I needed to clean out my barn after collecting them for over 40 years I still have a Jetfire needing cosmetic restoration (For Sale, pic attached asking $8995), and a white Cutlass convertible with red interior. That was my first restoration, begun in about 1975. I also have a coupe which is complete but disassembled. I have many spare parts, including 3 engines and 2 tranmissions. They were in good shape when removed from the cars, but have been sitting for about 15 to 20 years.
Contact me if you are interested in parts or help finding parts. Tom Kasper, Sr. of A-1 Transmissions in Elgin, Illinois is an OCA member who has rebuilt several transmissions for me over the years. He can be reached at 847-888-4200. Good luck with your 62’s!
Just picked up a 61 deluxe sedan that my Lady saw in a field that she wanted. It is in surprisingly good shape with almost intact interior.
I am in search of a driver side quarter panel, front and back driver side doors. Also driver side front red/white door panel and trim under passager window driver side. Other than that it is complete.
I am not really a car guy in the sense of working on them so I was hoping you could lead me in the right direction on repair manuals or instructions for the vehicle. I can take apart and put back together anything but not sure what to take notice of when taking apart. Any help would be so greatly appreciated. The car was orinally bought on Christmas eve 1960 and I just happened to buy it on Christmas eve 2015. I was also able to locate the original owner and he is still alive living in area.
Hey Phil – we are looking for my dads 62 f85 cutlass. The VIN is 621k05342. It was white with red interior and a 4 spd manual. Any suggestions on how to look and see if it is still registered?
What state are you in!? Try Olds Club of America, or maybe state DMV.
I have a 62 F-85 Im restoring and parts are near impossible to find for this olds. I would be interested in talking about what you have for sale through email if you’re interested.
Where are you located, and what kind of parts do you need ? I have lots of stuff, from mechanical to trim. Some nos,lots of good used. Sheet metal, some glass, lots of little things and hard to find stuff.
Hey just bought a 62 f85 convertible. Do you have any interior parts? And any glass
I have a Gray console. Patterns for the trunk mat, 3 pieces.
I have a Gray console. Patterns for the trunk mat, 3 pieces. I am in Northwest Indiana.
I have a half restored running 62 convertible F-85 new paint interior top and rims for sale have pictures to many projects need space
If you still have the 62 f85 let me know (and how much you’re asking). Some pictures would be helpful as well. Thanks. Mike
Interested. Location and price?
Was wondering if you could help me find any 1962 cutlass parts as I just bought one
I have 2 engines, a transmission, power steering set-up, good replacement front fenders, lots of miscellaneaous trim parts. Brake cyllinder rebuild kits, and some brake cyllinders. What do you need?
Good morning. I just received a complete 1962 F85 cutlass convertible. It is all original and in great shape except it is missing the gas tank. Would you happen to have one or a lead on where time one. Thank you.
how much you purchase it for? I have a F-85 convertible 85% restored for sale
Location? And price? Color, exterior and interior?
Can you contact me about spare parts for my 1961 f85?
Contact me at email@example.com for parts for 61-62 Cutlass and f-85
I’ve wanted a Jetfire for years. I had to settle on a 62 Cutlass which is almost complete from a ground up restoration. Parts are hard to find or donor cars is a must. Cant wait to get mine on the road, its been 13yrs so far. 2 door red w/white roof and red interior. Tony
My Jetfire is still for sale. Priced down to $8500. I have a complete 1962 coupe disassembled as well as many NOS and other parts.
My Jetfire is still for sale. Priced down to $8500. Also I have lots of parts, end a complete disassembled 62 coupe. Runs well. Body work done. Needs to be put together.
I quick comment about A-1 transmissionTom Kasper JR, again JR not senior stole $2000 for what I paid him to restore my 1962 F85 Roto5 transmission and the car tranny ran horrible. He took weeks, delay after delay then he had the gall to charge me $2,000 and the transmission never shifted correctly. He said the car had to warm up to run right….he lied!! I know this because I ended up taking it to Auto Transmission Designing (ATD) German Town Wisconsin. They were aghast to see how hap hazardly Jr assembled the tranny. ATD was solo shocked that they took photos……so DO NOT TAKE it to A-1 Transmission…JR is the worst I have ever met.
Do u have any rear quarters for them wonderful f85s
No, sorry. I have 2 good left front fenders. Ltd of good stainless trim.
Do you have any convertible parts? Looking for top cylinder well liner and boot
I just bought a 1962 Cutlass convertible and am in need of several parts. I sent and email with the list of what I need. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Do you still have the 62 Jetfire or F85’s available? I am recently obsessed and interested in a full resto mod so all I really need is a rust free body with beautiful trim and a solid frame. The rest I will modernize. Please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org with 1962 in the subject line. Thanks Eddie
I have a 62 cutlass f85. Missing some trim/details. Do you have the piece of trim from the passengers front quarter panel (the small vertical piece)? Also looking for the front and rear chrome bumper pegs (smaller vertical piece), the f85 badge to the right of the speedometer, chrome topper for the front bucket seats and the f85 logos on both front doors. May even be interested in buying a parts car. I’m in OH. Appreciate your help!
I have one of Phil’s 62 convertibles that I’m restoring.
Hi phil, this’s Bruce Rohn you hooked me up with a fender and heater control sensor. I need to pay you for those. I would like to see if you still have parts available. Thanks!!
Hello. any chance you have 15” rims ? Thanks
Hello do you have 15”s for these cars ? Thank you as I see the orig. question did not got thru
Need hood for Olds Cutlass F 85 Club Coupe.
Los Angeles, CA
IMO the F-85 was the best-looking Y-body.
What’s not to like,classic Olds styling,V8,compact size.I like this a lot I’m always surprised these were never more popular especially in England. I’ve never seen many of them or their Pontiac and Buick relatives.Lovely car thank you
They would have been awfully expensive for British buyers — by 1964, the British importer was charging nearly £2,000 (with purchase tax) for a six-cylinder Chevelle, so I can imagine how much they’d have wanted for a RHD Cutlass with the aluminum V-8.
I remember seeing Chevelles and Oldsmobiles in Lendrums the London GM dealer as a kid in the 60s.I think the Chevelle was a Canadian offering called the Beaumont Arcadia.I can’t remember if they were RHD,Dad’s Falcons were LHD and 3 or 4 years old.
Everything converted to RHD was done at Oshawa, Ontario, for cars that went to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and of course the United Kingdom.
Acadian = Chevy II/Nova body (Well at least until it was a Chevette)
Beaumont = Chevelle/Malibu body
I’m going by an Autocar review from January 1965, which calls it a Chevrolet Chevelle, but does specify that it originated from Oshawa, Ontario, as Canucknucklehead says, with the distributor listed as General Motors Ltd., Buckminster Gate, London. They said the importer offered a choice of the 194 or 230 cu. in. sixes (3,184 or 3,769 cc, if you prefer) or the basic 283 (4,638 cc) V-8. The price was quoted as £1,953 (with purchase tax) for the 230 with Powerglide; they didn’t specify the asking price for the V-8, but I assume it was over £2K.
Just wingin’ it here, but perhaps they are stylized knives or swords; hence “Cutlass”.
A very good guess. Then I noticed the thing on the front of the 61 F-85 from before there was a Cutlass. Of course, they knew there was a Cutlass coming. Handle and hilt maybe? Or just another nonsensical design like the Dodge Fratzog?
I think its a variation of the jet/rocket themed standard Oldsmobile logo, the whole “F-85” name is jet themed and I imagine supposed to evoke some sort of connection the F86 Sabre Jet fighter.
F-85 was derived from the F-88 concept car from 1954 that was based off the original Corvette design. We already had Super 88s so 85 was chosen to avoid confusion.
I’m assuming you mean just the name, not any real aspects of the car?
Yes – it was before my time so I have no idea what specific influence it had on the Cutlass, probably little since the markets were different. Most people have come to believe the Oldsmobile concept was better than the Corvette, it would have been nice for Oldsmobile to do such a car.
Could you imagine later generations being around with the Toronado, Jetfire, Starfire, and the Cutlass. Chevrolet builds cars for basic needs, Pontiac builds cars for those that want to go fast, Buick builds cars for people who wanted understated elegance, Cadillac builds cars for people who have everything, while Oldsmobile builds cars who think ahead and who dream of going to the moon.
Here is a wonderful video of the F-88 concept, not only for the car itself but the excellent musical score that does justice to video:
Umm, no offense, but a Corvette with an Olds engine stuffed in it and some fanciful re-styling that might have been done in an LA customizer’s garage doesn’t quite warrant 10 minutes of adoring long slow shots. And good choice on that music; that particular piece is like an endless loop; a real snoozer. At least they didn’t use something truly brilliant like Mozart, Bach or Beethoven. To each their own…
It is not based on the f88 and they didnt choose 85 to avoid confusion. The name comes from the experimental f-85 goblin jet.
The F-88 sold at auction for $3.3 million in 2005.
There might even be a connection to the F7U Cutlass jet fighter that the Navy used in the late 40’s early 50’s. If not the same name maybe because of the weird styling of the plane itself.
One thing I’d add is that based on the timing of when Olds started working on FWD Y-bodies, I don’t think they could realistically have done it for ’61, even if the corporation had been totally on board. A lot of the testing was done using converted F-85 mules, and I think if the board had been amenable, the FWD car would probably have become the second-generation Y-body, presumably for ’64. However, disappointing sales of the Y-body, high costs, and doubts from Harold Metzel (and others) about whether Olds should even be in that market led to the decision to go with the more conventional body-on-frame A-body intermediates for ’64 instead. The FWD program switched to the B-body line and of course eventually ended up in the E-body Toronado.
We could wonder what if they had decided to go ahead with a FWD Y-body (come to think of it, let’s go a step further about what if the Corvair was launched as a FWD model?)? Would this might had forced Ford to go ahead with the Cardinal?
Not necessarily. Let’s consider first the possibility of a FWD Y-body Cutlass. As I said, I think it would have been for 1964, not 1961, meaning a launch in September or October of 1963. The point where Lee Iacocca convinced Henry Ford II not to do the Cardinal in the U.S. was the spring of 1962. The Cardinal was supposed to launch in the States (probably called Redwing — Cardinal was just a codename) for 1963, so if they’d go ahead with it, it would have been on the market for a year before the Olds appeared.
The Cardinal/Redwing was really a class and a half down from the Cutlass in size and price: Assuming a FWD Y-body would have been about the size of the ’63, the Cutlass would have been a good 2 feet (say 60 cm) longer, a half ton heavier, and over 30 percent more expensive. So, they wouldn’t have been direct competitors in any sense. Also, the Cardinal’s FWD package did not exactly lend itself to scaling up — it was based around the V-4 engine, which was short enough to be mounted longitudinally over the nose. I suppose you could have stretched the nose to make room for the subsequent Cologne V-6, but a V-8 would have been a trick.
Ford also had a very different FWD layout that was conceptually similar to the Toronado’s Unitized Power Package (Ford’s, developed by Fred Hooven, was first, and looking at Hooven’s patent, I strongly suspect GM had to make some kind of deal with Ford on it) and that, like the UPP, could have been applied to Ford’s standard full-size cars. They were going to put it in the Thunderbird as a trial balloon, but the project kept getting pushed back and was finally canned entirely. It’s possible that Ford would have kept working on that as an engineering project and waited to see how well the Olds actually did on the market — Olds might have saved them the trouble of doing it themselves.
As for the Corvair, it’s important to remember that Chevrolet and Olds were completely separate in those days and there wasn’t much engineering crossover unless they both picked up something developed by the corporate Engineering Staff. Chevrolet thought about FWD early in the Corvair’s development, but Ed Cole was fascinated with rear engines and the division decided that the RR layout was more promising because it would allow easier steering without power assist. (Low steering effort was not exactly a strong point of early FWD cars.) So, it’s hard to see Chevrolet changing course early on unless for some reason the corporation ordered them to do so, and if they decided to do a FWD product later on, they’d probably have called it something else.
Yes, the Cardinal was designed as a VW fighter, not for premium-mid-compact class.
I think one of the other things that squashed FWD on a smaller car was that they felt they wouldn’t recover the costs and or, they couldn’t sell a smaller FWD car at a price point that would make sense vs the standard big Oldsmobile, which is what let to the FWD program moving up to the E-body personal luxury coupe them that became the Toronado.
That was definitely part of it. I think the big problem was that the Y-body cars were pretty expensive to manufacture as it was (the aluminum V-8 wasn’t cheap), there wasn’t as much commonality between them as the corporation probably would have preferred (three different automatic transmissions being one example), and none of them sold as well as GM had hoped. The idea of making them more expensive while introducing a bunch of new potential reliability and warranty problems can’t have been very attractive at that point.
FWD concepts on different cars had been part of the mix of many GM car concepts since work on the 66 Toronado began. The biggest factor as to why we never did a FWD en masseuntil the X cars was cost. The UPP was expensive and most of the reason why it was released on the premium E bodies was to recover the cost. Furthermore, we were running into spatial problems trying to adapt the design of the UPP in anything small that full size. The large under hood area of the Toronado (and other full size cars) permitted the engine to be pushed forward and to the right, allowing for the chain drive and differential. That space was unavailable on smaller cars especially unibodies even with smaller packages. From the bits and pieces of the concepts that I saw when I got involved at Olds in the early 70s was that the UPP made a compact far to heavy and bent the monocoque shell too much, in addition to the car being too nose heavy. On a large, heavy car like the Toronado, it was less of a problem, but on a compact F-85 like that came out for 61, doors would pop open going over bumps. Metallurgy had not caught up enough to make the shells strong enough to support that much concentration of weight. Part of the beauty of the Pontiac Tempest was its weight distribution. Monocoque shells do best with closer to 50-50 weight distribution, mostly due to the fact that the strength points are spread out throughout the shell which makes them inherently tighter, but does not allow for a lot of weight to be concentrated in one area. You can adjust for that designing sub frames and additional support structures, but they cost money and add weight. The first generation Seville was able to provide a ‘Cadillac’ ride quietness by additional sub frame isolation through the use of sub frame shocks a unique concept that worked well but would not have been financially feasible on an inexpensive compact.
There were drivable concepts for a FWD version of the first generation Seville, but they were abandoned about 9 months into development. Part of the reason why the X car was ultimately chosen was to make up time that was wasted on that endeavor.
Paul Mutty (who ended up being the lead engineer on the diesel engines) worked for Bob Stempel when he was on the Oldsmobile team and developed the offset UPP arrangement that we know. He was also on the team for the turbocharged Jetfire. Mutty was one of the ablest fuel system guys in the industry and along with Bill Van Veen developed the SFI system that powered the Buick Turbo V6s technology which made its way into all of the other engines after a few years.
FWD was ultimately pushed off because it was realized that, except in specialty applications, it would take a corporate commitment to put the resources in place for an effective small car program. Of course that would take place after OPEC I changed the rationale of energy and the FWD program was green lighted in 1975.
All of which begs the question: why a giant personal coupe with FWD? I gave a stab at answering it here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1966-oldsmobile-toronado-gms-deadly-sin-16-lets-try-a-different-position/
I know that Cadillac also played around with the some downsized 77 deVilles converted to FWD using Eldorado drivetrains with a modified flat floor to show off how much space was gained in the conversion, I know that the FWD C-car program was already started by 79-80, I wonder if there was any consideration towards making FWD large B-C body cars besides the E-body
Car & Driver in February 1971 did an article on then Olds GM (and Chief Engineer at Olds for the Toronado):
Interesting article; a bit disappointing on a number of levels, though. As if the ’71 Toronado was anything but a low-trim Eldorado. My favorite line: The government’s demands (on future smog controls) have become utterly unrealistic. As far as anything I know about, anything that exists, there isn’t any way that mass production can meet emission levels they’re now talking about…all we can do is work at it and wait until the elections are over and see what the atmosphere is like then.
“As if the ’71 Toronado was anything but a low-trim Eldorado.”
I prefer to think of the Eldorado as a fancy Toronado instead.
I always wondered about the Seville. When I was researching its development, I found two different statements from Bob Templin, one saying they’d tried the UPP in the Seville and decided it didn’t work, another asserting flatly that it didn’t fit.
The UPP concept really seemed like it was intended to allow FWD to be easily adapted to existing full-size platforms, which I suppose was true, but also seemed to defeat the purpose. At least half the point of FWD is packaging efficiency, which is pretty difficult to achieve without a bespoke (or at least heavily modified) platform.
I believe that there were also differences between the Olds and Buick aluminum engines (head design?)
Olds used the Buick short block, but developed their own cylinder heads, which are a little heavier but allowed slightly more power.
I have yet to see a ’60s Olds that’s not attractive. This one continues the unbeaten streak.(They might exist, I don’t know Olds that well.)
Love the shot with the 7Up machine behind blinds. Which starlet is about to enter the frame as we hear the car door slam?
Now in cans! You like it, it likes you. At first, I thought the focus of the picture were the dents in the side of the building.
I would say look at the ’67-68 Full Sized Oldsmobiles and tell me what you think. I judge them on a bodystyle by body style basis, but I know some people who think they’re the ugliest of all GM B-C bodies of those years.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of Carmine, I’d rank the standard Cadillacs as the least attractive full-size GM cars of those years. I always liked the full-size Oldsmobiles.
I’m influenced by the 1967 Delmont 88 Holiday sedan my family had from 1972 through 1977. It was a great car.
MHO only, but I think the ’63 F-85 Cutlass coupe is unattractive at every angle.
Nice find and not something I’m likely to find live, plenty of engines around in old Rovers but the originals from GM nope have to rely on Lawrence for those
Of the ’61-62 B-O-P compacts, the ’62 Olds is the best (or certainly near the top) with the Buick coming in second. The more radically engineered ‘rope-drive’ Tempest had a more homely face than the other two. But by ’63, things reversed with the Pontiac Tempest getting better styling than the other two.
The early sixties really was a glorious time for the General with all divisions sporting a classically styled car virtually every year or so, and they’d ride the crest until the seventies’ Vega, then colonnade, eras started them on the path to eventual near-ruin and bankruptcy, with only the occasional flash or two of decent cars (like the 1977 downsized B-body Impala).
I have some pretty vivid memories of driving a ’62 Cutlass coupe when I was 16 or so, the most enduring one being my first attempt to hit 100, on a late summer night out on the Eastern Shore heading for the ocean. It almost made it: somewhere between 95 and 98, streaks of steam started condensing on the windshield, and the fun was over.
That car always seemed to be running hot (it was summer), and we always carried several jugs of water in the trunk.
Driving it was a bit of a let-down. I expected it to be sportier than it was. It tried way to hard to feel like a full size Olds: the steering was too slow, numb and over boosted, and the handling was to flaccid. Not really bad, but just not as good as one might have hoped for.
Hmmmm – maybe that overheating thing was not just our car. My parents had to run anti-freeze in the car year-round, which was not commonly done in the early 60s. A gas pump jockey popped the rad cap when they drove it to Florida one year. They had to wait for a long time before the service station could locate some anti-freeze in Florida. Maybe anti-freeze would have upped the boiling point enough in the car you drove that you could have hit that century mark. 🙂
The original antifreeze was alcohol and it would boil off quicker than water which was why it was only used in the winter. The glycol or “permanent” antifreeze is actually worse for heat transfer than good old straight water. A 50-50 mix only raises the boiling point 3 degrees while it’s lesser heat transfer capacity means you are more likely to boil over with it than straight water. The pressurized cooling system is what is responsible for the higher boiling point.
If you look in the owner’s manual of a modern Ford and possibly other vehicles as well you’ll find recommendations concerning antifreeze concentration. 50-50 is recommended for “most climates” while 60% water-40% antifreeze is recommended for operation in extremely hot climates to increase the cooling system’s heat transfer capabilities while retaining adequate corrosion protection.
Interesting info that I never knew. Thanks. I had always understood that the glycol antifreeze raised the boiling point, but had never though about heat transfer aspects, and never dreamed that it would be worse than straight water for this. Food for thought.
My uncle had the Buick version of this car. He found that the combination of aluminum engine and copper radiator were a problem with the cooling system. Glycol antifreeze all year was the only answer. He lived in Los Angeles, so most folks were still using just water.
The BOP compacts are interesting, GM having the bucks to do whatever it wanted, jumped whole hog into the compact market with these, they launched them as entire separate brands within their divisions, and they had the full complement of body styles, coupe, wagon, sedan, convertible, same full range of options and equipment automatics, a/c, power windows, down to a little V8 and everything and on the higher end models, the interiors were very nicely trimmed.
What they created in anticipation of a great compact car boom in the US was essentially full range of junior versions of its big cars. Its interesting to note that domestic cars were starting to take on a much more continental approach to design and engineering in the early 60’s before the muscle car/pony car boom in 1964, these were pretty close to a modern car considering that they date back 50 years, uni-body compacts, V6 engines, if they would have nailed down the FWD and added disc brakes they would have been 80% there.
Like these cars (make mine the wagon, though) and absolutely love the vintage ads. Apparently, these came with a factory-installed stewardess. Cool.
Also regarding marketing, the elaborate names manufacturers give to things like transmissions cracks me up every time. Even without knowing any of the technical details, would you rather have a “Roto-Hydramatic” or a “Dual Path Turbine Drive”?
I know what my choice would be.
I would like to think there was a room where guys just sat around and came up with those names, just by combining words all day and seeing what sounded best.
Super Turbine Flight Pitch Hydramatic?
Atta boy….have a cigarette!
Naming stuff was popular in the day when basic features and amenities that we take for granted today were just emerging in the marketplace and were mostly options. Some stuff like “Super” and “Sure” were just simply an adverb or adjective but most of the other words had technical origins even if they weren’t completely accurate to that particular transmission.
I personally miss the use of -O- to combine two words or parts of words. Most often seen with Matic.
I’m sure there are lots of others too.
As a kid in the 50’s I was impressed with the fact that having an automatic (Powerglide, Fordomatic, etc.) in a low end car was sufficiently important to warrant the designation on the back of the car. I guess you wanted the neighbors to know you were “shiftless.” I think that practice stopped around 55 (with Chevy I know, not sure about the others).
Ford even put “Overdrive” script on the back of cars so equipped. The Europeans did the same thing, but a couple of decades later. Mercedes, VW and others proudly displayed “Automatic” in chrome letters into the 1970s.
“Fuel injection” was also a big bragging point for years too, I also remember the “Automatic Overdrive” and “Front Wheel Drive” emblems too.
Forgot about Overdrive on the trunk. Brings back memories. Apparently the Fordomatic script had three mounting holes and the Overdrive two – the things you can find on the web!
Surprised you guys forgot about these (and many similar ones).
I think she might be one of the ladies sitting in the back seat in that famous Jetfire commercial:
This commercial makes me miss the optimism of the early 60’s. 1962: the year of John Glenn circling Earth, the Space Needle and Century 21 Exposition, and the Jetfire with turbo rocket fuel! Of course we also had the Cuban Missile Crisis (more rockets!), the failing Diem regime, the struggle for civil rights and a few other concerns…
My older brothers friend had one of these as his first car . I remember it was bright red with a really nice bucket seat interior. It also seemed to suffer from a reoccurring overheating problem of some sort . This still didn’t stop my brothers friend from thrashing it unmercifully the short time he owned it
Last year a guy in my neighborhood had a 1963 Cutlass in his driveway he was trying to sell. I looked at it a couple of times, it was in beautiful condition. White paint, original hubcaps, automatic of course. He was asking $10,000 but said he might take $8,000 which seemed a bit steep to me. It took a long time to sell but it’s finally gone–and I miss seeing it.
One question about these: the Cutlass is described as a two-door hardtop but it looked like the door glass had a fixed frame and there was a small fixed B-pillar. I’ve looked at pictures of other Cutlasses and they seem the same, much like this one. I’d call that a two-door sedan (aka coupe). Does anyone know if these came in a true hardtop?
Yes, the car featured here is a true hardtop. The window glass has chromed metal frames which roll down into the doors and rear body. I believe that the illustration with the stewardess is of the non-hardtop version which has B pillars.
Aah, the chrome frames aren’t fixed, that explains it. But what about the drawing with the B-pillar? Incorrect? Or was the F-85 Cutlass available in both coupe and hardtop at various times? Wikipedia makes it sound like the Cutlass trim was the hardtop, but Wiki has been known to be wrong.
At the time I saw the 1963 in person I decided it might be a regular F-85 coupe redone as a Cutlass, and used that to make it into sour grapes.
I believe that the 1961 two door versions were called Oldsmobile F-85 and Buick Special and had B pillars. And that the introduced as 1962 two door hardtops were called Cutlass and Skylark. I don’t know if the pillared two door versions were still offered in 1962 or not. The 1962 two door hardtops turned out to be a one year body style as the ’63s got the larger and boxier lower body. I know what you mean about Wikipedia as I spotted some errors in their 1962 Skylark article.
The ’63 body is still essentially the same underneath the outside skin and longer ends. The interior dimensions are all the same, and doors, windows and such too, except for the outer skin.
Considering how expensive they were, I am suprised there was a one year only restyle for 1963, then BOP threw out the whole Y body.
Personally, for the Cutlass I prefer the squared-off style of the ’63 body. It’s like the late Falcon vs. early Falcon: squaring the body off makes the car look more butch and bigger without actually being larger.
But really there isn’t a Y-body that I don’t like.
The Cutlasses were pillared coupes, like The original Corvairs. Only the Jetfire was a true hardtop for the Oldsmobile version. The Skylark was pillared in ’61, as was the Tempest LeMans, but both of those became hardtops in ’62. Olds, oddly, didn’t offer the Cutlass as a Holiday Hardtop these years.
Okay that sounds convincing. I will have to amend my “dream car” list, as if I ever get a ’60’s or ’70’s American car it will be a hardtop.
Although I might be wrong about the Tempest. I can’t seem to find a hardtop version of that either.
Laurence, I believe that the featured car in this article is a hardtop. It has the same windows that my 1962 Skylark hardtop did. The chromed metal frames that look like a B-pillar are attached to the glass and one goes down with the front window, and the other goes down with the rear window. The only fixed posts on the hardtop are the ones that the vent windows close to.
I think Laurence is right. I have been watching the comments, and the window frames are way too thick to be trim on hardtop glass. The 62 F-85 Brochure plainly shows a Cutlass that is not a hardtop, and calls it a Sports Coupe. GM was very good at making coupes with exceptionally thin door uppers.
And they liked to refer to them as “thin pillar coupes” in some cases.
With all due respect the featured car is a hardtop. Please look at Laurence’s December 4,2012 article on the 1962 Buick Skylark. The first photo shows the large chrome window frames. The rear window is partially open (rotates clockwise) and a V shaped gap shows between the two window frames.
The second photo shows a 4 door with a B-pillar. The B-pillar is thin and is painted body color. The B-pillar has the chrome window frames on each side of it. The B-pillar arrangement for the two door should be similar.
The hardtop window arrangement should be the same for both Olds and Buick. The chrome frames are so large that two of them together can look like a B-pillar.
Yes the interior illustration is of a pillared two door, but that doesn’t mean that a two door hardtop wasn’t also offered.
If you zoom in on the first photo of this article the heavy chrome window frames are apparent. Nice resolution on the photo!
I am not sold. The Cutlass shown in the F-85 brochure is plainly a Sport Coupe. There is not a single hardtop in the F-85 line in the standard brochure. The specs in back also do not list a hardtop as available. The Sport Coupe as shown has quite thin door uppers.
In the Jetfire brochure, they show a hardtop and refer to it as such. Add this to the documentation that Laurence has (and the fact that he saw the car in person) and I still think this is a Sport Coupe, not a hardtop.
I do get what you are saying, these hardtops in this body may be one of the only GM hardtops of this era with the chrome framing around the entire windows. Our 64 Cutlass used frameless glass, with only a chrome divider on the leading edge of the rear window to hold the weatherstrip. I believe the 61-64 B-C body 2 door hardtops were like this (going from memory).
Laurence is right. My Encyclopedia confirms that only the ’62-’63 Jetfire and ’62-’63 Skylarks were hardtop coupes. The difference is pretty subtle when the windows are up, but if you look carefully, this Jetfire’s are a bit thinner.
And if you google ’62 Cutlass coupe, you won’t find a single hardtop; they’re all pillared.
I have an Oldsmobile 1955-63 Test Book guide, and the ’63 Cutlass Motor Trend tested is obviously a pillared coupe. This is a Wikipedia is wrong case. Only the Jetfire was a hardtop.
Laurence, jpc, and Paul,
Thanks, I am convinced.
At the place I worked in high school (65-68) there was an older woman employee who drove a 62 V8 Cutlass coupe, the last new car her husband bought before he died (hence she kept it the rest of her life). It was red on red with the bucket seat interior pictured above but with console and floor shift – my recollection is that the floor shift was all chrome with a chrome knob at the end.
The fact that the Cutlass handled and rode like a big car would have appealed to this lady as she drove only a mile to work (hence no overheating problems) and loved a gentle, quiet ride. What I most remember is what a great looking car it was and how it stayed stylish right on through the introduction of the Mustang and the other pony cars. I liked the 62 way better than the 63; the latter, with its elongated and squared off appearance, just didn’t look as nicely proportioned or as stylish as the 62 with its headlights beautifully integrated into the convex grille and taillights looking like natural extensions of the rear fenders. The 62 Skylark coupe also was one fine looking car. Both looked like small but expensive versions of their big brothers.
The full sized Starfire died with the full size sporty market in late 60’s. Impala SS, Wildcat, and Maurauder. GP switched to mid size and took off. Big car buyers wanted plushness, and sporty/muscle car buyers wanted less weight and more speed.
The Cutlass had legs, it started slow and went to #1 by 1976.
Plus the Toronado was on its way, I’ve seen one Toronado mock up with Starfire emblems on it, so I imagine they may have considered it.
There really wasn’t any point in continuing the Starfire when the Toronado was a true personal-luxury car, as opposed to a “standard” hardtop coupe with different trim and a slightly altered roofline. I always thought that “Starfire” was a great name. Too bad it ended up on a badge-engineered version of the 1975 Chevrolet Monza.
Although the Starfire did overlap the Toronado in ’66. As to why, your guess is as good as mine…
Oldsmobile hedging its bets, perhaps?
Either that or just because the B-body was restyled for ’65 and due for only a minor touch-up for ’66.
These were definitely “old cars” by the time I started reading old issues of Motor Trend in the elementary school library in the early 1970s. They were quite interesting, but a rare sight by then. I’m guessing that, between the troublesome engine and transmission, potentially expensive repairs took many of these off the road at a relatively young age.
A relative who fixed up old cars (as daily drivers, not as restored special-interest cars) had a sedan version of this car for about a year in the early 1970s. He didn’t keep it for long, and I wonder if the engine or transmission gave him trouble.
I’ve always preferred the 1961-62 models. The 1963 versions were obviously “bulked up” to look bigger and increase the family resemblance to their big brothers. The result made the cars look bland.
My aunt and uncle bought a new 1961 Special after trading in a ’57 Chevy 210 sedan, and they had lots of problems with it. First year bugs, and Buick dealers were more expensive for repairs.
Traded it in for a new 65 Fury III V8, and was a Mopar man the rest of his life. My aunt went back to Buicks, however.
There was an ultra-rare version of this car called the Jetfire, with a water-alcohol injected turbo. Naturally, there was a techno-babble term, Turbo Rocket Fluid.
I have a 62 cutlass convertible for sale at $6900. Needs interior, but is running. New canvas top, automatic trans, all glass, body straight. Same owner previous to me for 20 years. Text or call me at 972-nine65-six675 if interested. I can text or email more pics. Located in Dallas TX. Post date 7-7-2013
I have a 62 Cutlass F85 for sale. Its mostly original and has the manual transmission, which adds to it value. Interior is in excellent shape. I’ve had the car 12 years, have enjoyed it however I now have 2 other project cars in garage (a 41 dodge 5 window coupe & 64 Chevelle SS), there’s no more room! Im asking $10,000.00 OBO.
I owned a 62 f85 convertible, blue inside and out, high compression/quadrajet equiped engine, Borg and Warner T-10 4 manual with posi-trac rear end. Loved the car but havent seen another like it in years. It blew the rear main seal and dumped all the oil on the highway somewhere in the deserts of New Mexico. Had to sell it for $100.00 to a salvage yard. Really wish i could have gotten it back to Az. Also had a 67 442…we wont go there.
In 1976, at age 16, I got a 1962 F85. that car easily went over100mph many times. I loved that car! most of my friends learned to drive in that car. only real mechanical problem was she needed a new carb. also would have been nice to have the heater fixed and an fm radio. I dream of someday having one again!
My Dad bought a 62 F85 Cutlass Convertible in 1963 from the original owners. I have many memories of cruising Woodward in it as a family. Unfortunately, about the time I was old enough to drive, he started a restoration that would take years to finish (family always came first). When he got it back on the road, we used to take it to Oldsmobile shows around the midwest. It was always the only F85 at the show and garnered it’s fair share of attention. When Dad was no longer able to take care of it, I did all the maintenance and repairs on it for him. I still picture Mom & Dad in their 80’s driving it around town. After Dad passed away, Mom gave the car to me. I still have it and enjoy cruising Woodward as much now as I did then! It’s nice to read all the comments and “lust” aimed at this great car!!
1962 OLDSMOBILE CUTLASS CONVERTIBLE . TRYING TO REMOVE THE DOOR WINDOWS? WING WINDOW ASSEMBLY? THE TRIM ALONG TOP OF THE DOOR WHERE THE WINDOW GOES DOWN? ANYONE KNOW HOW?
Steve – I am in Northwest Indiana and have several 62 Cutlass’s, and lots of parts. Removing the wing windows on a convertible is tricky. There is a bolt on the hinge side, and a screw head and bolt (with adjustment for the track) on the inside near the handle. I will try to get a picture and show you. Right now, I have one apart in the shop, but covered up. Did you check the manual, I believe it shows it there.
From Robert- Bay area California
notice that you deal with lots of Oldsmobile Parts.
I own a 1962 Olds Cutlass F-85 V8, floor shift
auto trans mission (Hydromatic).
I have rebuilt the transmission 3 time in the last six months and it still
not right. after running for about 15 minutes it shifts into neutral until
i start to accelerate again. I prefer to change it out at this time.
do you have suggestions on what i can replace it with. not having tork converter makes it very difficult.
OK- please let me know.
I have a 1962 Cutlass F-85 V8
automatic floor shift.
Have rebuilt transmission 3 times.
still not right.
any body have a replacement solution for
Hydromatic 3 speed floor shift transmission
for this cutlass. Thanks
Robert: A Buick dual turbine (essentially a Powerglide 2 speed) from a Special ’61 to ’63, will bolt in, but a properly rebuilt Roto-Hydramatic is best. I have had 2 rebuilt over the years by Tom Kasper in Elgin, IL. (See Illinois Valley Olds Club, IVOC) He replaces older aluminum parts with all steel bushings, etc. After his work, they work better than new. The harder you push them, the stronger they pull!
Thanks very much for the response.
i will look into the Buick dual turbine transmission
I will get in touch with Tom Kasper and see if he knows what the problem is and
then try to find a knowledgeable transmission shop here in Bay Area California.
Man I love this Car and want to keep original.
I have lots of extra parts, stainless trim, grill, moldings. Also I have a couple of good motors, not worth shipping to California however. Good luck with your Trans, it may just need adjustment if it has been rebuilt once.
my dad passed away two years ago and left me and my brother over 100 cars. There are a couple old oldsmobiles. We are trying to sell them. Can any one help me.
Any 61-62-63 f-85’s? Where are you and the cats located?
I have a 62 convertible F -85 with new top interior paint all chrome original exterior racing rims for sale have to many projects asking 10k contact me at 909 452- 9835 ask for Dominic
I have a 1962 olds cutlass F85 I want to put power brakes on it does any one know of a kit or the rite booster that will fitt let me know at email@example.com thanks
I have a 1962 F85/Cutlass, that was a barn find. It is ruff, but, it is all there. I had intentions to restore it, but, due to health reasons that dream is gone. I am now wanting to sell. Asking…… $2,000.00
I might deal.
Last year I purchased a 1962 Cutlass with an automatic floor shifter and am looking for a few interior items. A steering wheel , a shifter indicator readout (P N D 2 1 R ) and a rear view mirror post all in very good condition.
The holy grail of B-O-P compacts in the ’61-62 years, to me, is the 215 V8 powered Tempest LeMans coupe (’62 particularly). I like the Pontiac detail styling better than the others, but I’ve read before that the 215 only made it into 1-2% of production in ’61 and ’62.
I’e always liked these. A friend of my parents from church had a maroon ’63 Cutlass coupe, it’s rear end to me looked more like a full-size ’63 Buick and would have been a more logical design for the companion Buick Special/Skylark than the one that showed up that year. My Grandma had a ’63 Special sedan with the aluminium V8 that was a very nice car as well.
H’mmm. The rear of the greenhouse is bothering me; the backglass looks too small. Seems to me its width should extend and wrap all the way to the crease in the C-pillar.
The roof is a mini version of what they were putting on full sized GM cars with the Chevy related body from 1962-64. It was a response to the wide blank C pillar “Thunderbird” style roof that had spread to many Ford products, but to be different was modeled after a soft top convertible roof – hence the smaller rear window.
Here’s the big brother Oldsmobile 88 version:
Pontiac did the same thing with the Tempest/Le Mans — comparing the 1962 Tempest Coupe and Tempest Sport Coupe, the former has a slightly wrapped backlight while the latter has a smaller, non-wrapped backlight with thicker sail panels.
Neither version looks half so good as the B-body hardtops, though — the proportions are wrong, I think due to trying to minimize the number of tooling changes. The full-size hardtops for ’62 had a different roofline with the faux convertible top bows, while the Y-body (sport coupe or hardtop) seems compromised in a way that doesn’t exactly suit either style, proportionally.
The mini-me version is however more sculpted with sharp edges and less obviously soft top-like than the big car one.
First engine I ever overhauled was on a 62 F-85 that had been traded.
It had a bearing knock and pumped oil. The car itself was in such nice shape and the trade allowance was so low that our dealership decided it made sense to fix rather than scrap.
As an apprentice, my first overhaul job was closely watched by my journeyman trainer. Removing the head bolts, I noticed strips of shiny aluminum in some of the threads. I had stripped the darn things removing them! Arghh.
Luckily my trainer was cool about it. This was 1968 at a Ford dealer. Neither of us had experience with aluminum. My trainer commented that he’d never seen head bolts strip during removal on a Ford – or any other cast iron block.
He asked one of the master line mechanics who did have some aluminum GM experience. His suggestion was mild impacts on the initial removal torque lessened the possibility of stripped threads. Sounded like good advice I could have used before I started the job. He also noted the problem was not exactly uncommon and this happened to even experienced GM techs. Helped me feel a little better, but I still had a job to complete.
I had never installed heliCoils before, so reassembly turned into a training exercise for me. Thankfully the HeliCoils worked without complications and I acquired some new experience.
I was nervous preparing to start the reassembled engine for the 1st time. I remember asking my trainer “What if it doesn’t start?” To this day I remember his reply. “I checked you at every step. You assembled & timed the engine correctly. That engine has gas and spark. It can’t not start.”
Even so, I was amazed, impressed and relieved when it started right up and idled smoothly after priming the carb. I was quite happy the job never came back with a problem and also that I never had to work on another aluminum engine Olds!
Nice story. Too bad this site doesn’t have any upvote deal (or editing). I wonder what they’ve figured out since then to address that problem since after that of course aluminum blocks proliferated.
Pre-2004 Cadillac Northstar aluminum V8s were prone to head gasket failure because the head bolts didn’t hold well enough (in ~2000, they made the bolts larger, but in 2004, they used a coarser thread, and that all but ended the problem). Most people use Time-serts if they decide to fix the engine instead of junk the car. You have to drill a larger hole into the block, ram it in, and screw the bolt in. They may be called “timeserts,” because after a time, they may fail, too.
I had a 62 F85 convertible as my first car (bought used in 1967). Was warned by a mechanic about warping heads on aluminum engines. Only thing I ever did other than normal maintenance was replacing stained white top to black, so car was black over black.
Nice comfy interior, solid tranny, great on mileage….O, to have her back in the driveway!